Baltic Occupation refers to the occupation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, first by the Soviet Union under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939, and subsequently from 1941 to 1944. German occupation until 1944 and again by the Soviet Union from 1944 to 1991.
When World War II began in September 1939, the fate of the three Baltic states was already decided by the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of August 1939 and its secret protocol.
The losses in the Baltics during World War II were among the greatest in Europe. Population losses are estimated at 25% for Estonia, 30% for Latvia and 15% for Lithuania. The number of casualties killed in the war and occupation is estimated at 90,000 in Estonia, 180,000 in Latvia and 250,000 in Lithuania. This includes 1941 Soviet deportations, German deportations, and Holocaust victims.
In a reassessment of Soviet history that began in 1989 during perestroika, the Soviet Union criticized itself for the 1939 secret protocol between itself and Germany that led to the invasion and occupation of the Baltics.
The struggle for independence of the three Baltic states came to fruition in 1991, accelerating the eventual split of the Soviet Union six months later, after each country regained its independence and seceded from the Soviet Union. Russian troops began withdrawing from the Baltics (first from Lithuania) in August 1993. The last Russian troops withdrew from the Baltics in August 1994. The Russian government had a contract to lease Skrunda-1's radar station until August 1998. The last Russian troops withdrew from Skrunda-1 in October 1999.
History up to 1939
The four Baltic states of Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, formerly territories of the Russian Empire, established their borders by 1920 following the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian wars of independence after World War I. (See: Treaty of Tartu, Latvian-Soviet Riga Peace Treaty, Soviet-Lithuanian Peace Treaty).
In 1924, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia signed a mutual defense pact against a final aggressor. Ten years later, the Stalin-led Soviet Union pledged not to attack these Baltic states until 1944.
Soviet 1939 ultimatum
German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact
In the early hours of August 24, 1939, the Soviet Union and Germany signed the 10-year German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact. The treaty contained a secret protocol that was revealed only after Germany's defeat in 1945. According to its provisions, the countries of northern and eastern Europe were divided into German and Soviet "spheres of influence". In the north Finland, Estonia, and Latvia were allotted to the Soviet sphere of influence. As for Poland, the areas to the east of the Narew, Vistula and San rivers were to be occupied by the Soviets, while the areas to the west were to be occupied by Germany. Lithuania, bordering East Prussia, was originally intended to be part of Germany's sphere of influence, but a subsequent secret protocol (German-Soviet Boundary Friendship Treaty) agreed in September 1939 allocated most of Lithuania to the Soviet Union. . Under a secrecy clause, Lithuania regained its former capital Vilnius, which had been ruled by Poland during the interwar period.
Start of World War II